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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Seattle Times embarrasses itself in uncritical endorsement of Dave Reichert

Less than a week after it sponsored a lively debate between Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert, the Seattle Times has published an endorsement of Dave Reichert that reads like it was ghostwritten by the cabal at unSoundPolitics.

This endorsement is both unsurprising in its selection and remarkably awful. Given the Times' well known positions on the nation's most pressing issues, its self-professed respect for the electorate, and Reichert's performance at last Tuesday's debate, it is curiously one sided and badly worded.

This editorial is, without a doubt, not worth the paper it's printed on. The Seattle Times has disgraced itself and its reputation with a nonsensical, shoddy piece of writing that does its readers no service. The Times is marginalizing itself and its owner, preoccupied with his hatred of the estate tax (both state and federal) doesn't seem to care.

Here's some specific examples of what we mean.
The Times recommends...Reichert in the 8th

While there is a compelling reason for change in Congress, the case to replace Congressman Dave Reichert in the 8th District has not been made.
So the Times wants to see one party rule in Washington, D.C. ended, but in of the most competitive races in the country, they're endorsing the Republican. Clearly, sending new leadership to the U.S. House is not that important to Frank Blethen and Company.
The Auburn Republican deserves reelection. The former King County sheriff has an impressive record of public service and has shown a conscience-driven independent streak that reflects his moderate district.
Try Democratic district, not moderate district. The 8th voted overwhelmingly two years ago to reelect Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. Half of the district's state legislative delegation in Olympia is Democratic. Al Gore won the district in 2000, and John Kerry won it handily in 2004. Polling has shown that Congress and this Congressman are unpopular with voters.

And isn't it funny that two years ago the Times said that Reichert was too conservative for the 8th District when they endorsed Dave Ross:
The demographic shifts in maturing Eastside cities make the district less reliably Republican than it has been historically. U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who is retiring, endorses Republican Sheriff Dave Reichert to succeed her, yet he is far more conservative than she. That isn't so important in a sheriff, a job that Reichert does admirably, but it is incredibly so for a member of Congress representing such a moderate district.
And as for the claim that Reichert is independent and conscience-driven?
For starters, he refused to play along with his party on the atrocious Terri Schiavo spectacle. He also opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a key part of President Bush's energy policy.
Reichert is a weak-minded Congressman who is easily influenced by his handlers and GOP power figures. (What kind of independent gladly welcomes unpopular Republicans like Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Karl Rove to his district?)

Reichert only voted against the Republican majority on the Terri Schiavo bill after his advisors saw him getting an earful from voters at one of his rare public forums. He supported Arctic drilling before he entered Congress in early 2005, but purported to change his position after advisors saw polling data that showed voters were against Arctic drilling.

And though Reichert has voted against drilling, he has also voted for it, which signals that it is an illusion designed to get people like the members of the Seattle Times editorial board to buy into the idea that he is somehow independent.
Two years ago, The Times endorsed his opponent in a race to fill the open seat created by Rep. Jennifer Dunn's retirement. But Reichert has earned our endorsement this time.

He has matured in the job and his voting on complicated issues reflects that. His experience as a first responder has been a strength.

As a freshman, he received the rare responsibility of chairing a key homeland security subcommittee.
The Times' criteria for endorsing candidates for public office is certainly inconsistent and mysterious. Take a look at the Times' rationale for rejecting Reichert two years ago:
Ross opposes the war, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and individually managed Social Security accounts. He supports expansion of embryonic stem-cell research, limitations on assault weapons and a woman's right to choose.

Reichert differs with him on every point.
But when it comes to issues, there's only one issue that really seems to matter to the owner of the Seattle Times...and that's repeal of the estate tax, which Dave Reichert strongly supports.

Did the Times endorse Reichert just because of his position on the estate tax? We have no way of knowing for sure, but it's hard to imagine that it's not a factor. We can only assume the Seattle Times' endorsements are shaped by a candidate's position on the estate tax. The Times has done nothing to convince us otherwise.

The Times' other key issue is supposed to be media consolidation, which Frank Blethen & Co. have editorialized about on many occassions. Seattle Times editorial board member Ryan Blethen asked Reichert about media consolidation in Tuesday's debate, and Reichert responded:
Uh, that's an issue I'm not familiar with, and I'll have to pass on that question.
A sitting Congressman admitted in a public debate that he is "not familiar with" one of the most important issues to the newspaper of record in his home state, and that apparently is of no importance to said newspaper.

The Seattle Times completely ignored and conveniently overlooked Reichert's ignorance on an issue that they have identified as one of their top concerns.

It's also worth noting that Reichert won't be enjoying a subcommittee chairmanship come January if Democrats take back the U.S. House, which appears increasingly likely as more and more Republican-held districts are being strongly contested.

In any case, the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science, and Technology could use a better chair. Dave Reichert has been ineffective as a leader. He has put little effort into implementing the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission for strengthening (among many other things) first responder readiness.
Opponent Darcy Burner criticizes him for changing some positions, but Reichert shows a capacity for appreciating nuance and an appetite for seeking answers himself and making up his own mind. After initially opposing stem-cell research, he investigated the issue, visiting researchers at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He sought answers, found them and changed his position.
This is simply hilarious. Since when have weak-mindedness and voting both sides of an issue been traits worth glorifying?
He surprised many recently by saying he's not convinced about how much global warming is caused by human action. We are convinced it's a substantial contributing factor.
Right, so why are you endorsing him? Oh, wait, yeah, something about an estate tax repeal...
But Reichert says he's skeptical, so he's investigating. That's a better approach than adopting a ready-made ideology. He dared to be honest with the Sierra Club, whose endorsement he sought unsuccessfully.
So the fact that the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, that it's already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence means global warming is just part of a ready made ideology?

How ridiculous. The time for "investigations" is over. It's now time for action to reduce carbon emissions. We just can't afford a Congressman chairing a subcommittee with the word "science" in it who doesn't even believe in science.
That is Reichert's strength. He is not an ideologue like U.S. Rep Doc Hastings, the Pasco Republican who does the bidding of House Republican leadership.
Actually, that's not true, and the Times knows it. Reichert isn't independent. He isn't moderate. He is loyal to the House Republican leadership, and, like Doc Hastings, he does what they tell him to.

Why, he's admitted that in front of television cameras (launch audio clip here):
Sometimes the leadership comes to me and says, `Dave, we want you to vote a certain way.' Now, they know I can do that over here, that I have to do that over here. In other districts, that's not a problem, but here I have to be able to be very flexible in where I place my votes.

Because the big picture here is, keep this seat, keep the majority, keep the country moving forward with Republican ideals -- especially on the budget, on protecting our troops, on protecting this country. Right? Being responsible with taxpayer dollars. All of those things. That's the big picture. Not the vote I place on ANWR that you may not agree with, or the vote that I place on protecting salmon."

You have to... be ... flexible.

And so, when the leadership comes to me and says 'Dave, we need you to take a vote over here because we want to protect you and keep this majority, I...I do it.'
Exactly. He does what he's told. That's not independence, that's a rubber stamp and a vote for the failed Republican agenda.

Darcy Burner is running against a Congress and Congressman who do George W. Bush's bidding. That's why her message of change is so powerful. Darcy represents a fresh breeze of new ideas. She is a mother and a businesswoman, not a career politician. She understands the working families of the 8th District. She is smart, principled, and practical. She will make a great representative.

The rest of the Times' editorial is mostly a paraphrased and redacted version of the numerous and pathetic NRCC and Reichert attack ads that are running on television and appearing in mailboxes across the 8th District.

The Times had the audacity to criticize Darcy for running a "mean spirited campaign" when all she has done is tell the truth and hold Dave Reichert accountable. And amazingly, they did not level the same criticism of Reichert even though his only campaign ad to date (excluding his franked mail, of course) has been negative and completely untruthful.

This is an irresponsible editorial that is nothing more than a gift to the National Republican Congressional Committee. The Times' condemnations of Darcy Burner will now be used to fuel a Republican campaign of mass deception that is truly mean-spirited.

Whatever the Times' absurd reasoning for Reichert was, their endorsement isn't of much relevance. The Times did not endorse the winner in 2004, and there's an excellent possibility they will have picked the loser again this year.

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